tv [untitled] January 31, 2012 12:18am-12:48am PST
and every day. and our panel is going to delve deep into the issues that we're seeing not only here in the bay area but throughout the country and throughout the world. our third panel after lunch will talk about the future of the death penalty and hopefully its demise. you might be surprised that we are having a conversation here in san francisco about the death penalty. as you know, our district attorney has indicated that he may seek the death penalty in appropriate cases in san francisco, and that has not been the case for the past decade. but he's coming today to talk about his views. we also have a former warden at san quentin who surprised the last three executions, and she is now the head of death
penalty focus which is an anti-death penalty group. we have somebody, though, who really symbolizes everything that's wrong with the death penalty. in 1983 he was arrested and within 120 days was convicted in two trials which resulted in the death penalty. he was sentenced to angola in louisiana, death row, where they were executing people left and right. he spent 14 years. he had nearly half a dozen execution dates. and yet he survived and he's here today. and actually -- i know you are on the third panel. come on up. come on up.
this is james "j.t." thompson. he came all the way from louisiana to be here today. [applause] one question, how did you survive? >> god. god. god. death row is a place that brings out the truest human being in you. it makes you realize you can't take nothing for granted. you need to love every moment of each day and praise and thank god for each moment you have out here. for the system to do what it did to me -- i was the only child from my mother. i was a father too.
the system didn't see none of that. it did not see me not having a criminal record. it's hard to accept. it's hard to keep on continuing to accept a prosecutor or somebody that wants to sentence swub to death with a system that's corrupt as ours. all right. [applause] >> i want to take this opportunity to thank the sponsors who have made the summit possible. the law firm of brown and furtel and my good friend, dave young, thank you. the criminal trial lawyers association. we'll hear from their incoming president in a few minutes. and also stuart hanlon as well as the bar association of san
francisco. so let's have a round of applause for our sponsors today . let's get down to it. so before we get started i want to introduce someone who's a wonderful leader in our community and that's the president of the bar association of san francisco. >> thank you. thank you, jeff, for inviting me on behalf of the bar association of san francisco. i'm priya sanger. i'm president of the bar association of san francisco. basf, as we note the bar association to be called, has had a long relationship with the public defenders office.
it is crucially important for administration of justice. and so is san francisco conflicts panels where administration, which the bar association has provided in partnership with public defenders. so in san francisco when a public defender has a conflict of interest, criminal defendants and minors are represented by private attorneys from a panel administered by the bar association of san francisco. maintaining this independent body of attorneys is critically important as a well-run public defenders office. we are each other's complement. we are the sum of the parts that makes whole the criminal departments working so well in san francisco. in 2003 the superior court contracted with the bar association of san francisco indigent to have cost-saving oversight to the administration and billing associated with
conflicts. so tron is the director of the courts administration and has been working with jeff since 2003 to make sure that indigent panels are effective and that they do all -- that we do all we can to prevent recidivism. so thank you, jeff, for allowing us to be here and co-sponsoring this event. thank you all for coming here. [applause] >> thank you. next i'd like to introduce, the incoming president of the criminal trial lawyers association of northern california, frank. >> hello. i'm frank and president-elect of criminal trial lawyers association of northern california. ctla is a proud co-sponsor of the justice summit here today.
i've been asked to say a few words about ctla to both inform and entertain you for about the next two minutes. it's a professional association of criminal defense lawyers in the bay area. our membership list includes about 400 lawyers and private investigators, expert witnesses and even some professors and law students. our members are -- how do i say this -- luminaries in the field. today, the justice conference honors a past ctla honoree, one of our own, tony serra. ctla has featured the likes of not only tony serra at a feature presenter at our programs but those that include jim bross that has who defends cases most of the time but was the special prosecutor in the cat wineberger case. john was responsible for ollie north. chris argatis, who i don't think has prosecuted anyone but defends everyone. and other greats like patrick
and nancy. our programs have historically been more a mix of social and educational gatherings. our history dates back to 1962. we had a judge's luncheon in 1962 and our list of ctla presidents goes back that far. i wish i had the time to list them all but i don't. we'll get that list on our ctla page soon. san francisco is lucky to have ctla to kick around. our shall i say, to have our ctla members to kick around. but seriously, i'm humbled by the ctla members who every day, every day defend their clients using the constitutions of the united states and california in support of great principles. every day our members show courage in bay area courts, and we do ok in the big battles as well. who will ever forget the extraordinary accomplishments of john in defending our
college, patrick, from a crazy federal prosecutor in nevada? that level of talent and that level of courage is unique, but every day criminal courts in the bay area shine because my colleagues from ctla are working there. recently ctla issued a public statement against the death penalty. ctla joins other groups and individuals here today in calling for permanent incarceration as california's alternative to the death penalty. this city and county has a great san francisco public defender and we want to express our thanks to jeff adachi for his support of ctla over the years and for his gratitude for being here today. thank you for your taxi and have a great conference -- thank you for your attention and have a great conference. [applause] >> i also want to acknowledge the public defender, past-present president of the
california lawyers association. thank you for being here. now, we have our 50th anniversary tribute to "to kill a mockingbird." how many of you have read the book? seen the movie? i think everybody has seen it. well, this tribute features not only a great clip from "to kill a mockingbird" but atticus finch himself played by julian lopez-morillas who is one of the finest actors in the bay area. so let's go back to memory lane and enjoy this performance. >> ladies and gentlemen, gregory peck. >> never seems as fresh and wonderful, as good and evil as it does when seen through the eyes of a child.
trying to capture that is remarkable and perhaps that is why one look and the last few years has been so warmly embraced by tens of millions of people. "to kill a mockingbird," winner of the pulitzer prize and just about every award a book can win and now happily "to kill a mockingbird" becomes a motion picture and its memorable characters become vividly alive. some people call him jane louise finch. but she insists on scout. and that's her brother, gym. just a boy until the day he learns there is evil in the world. and atticus finch, the father, whose devotion of justice places him and his children in jeopardy. and party to the defense, john robinson. >> excuse me.
but i would like to use the remaining time i have with you to remind you that this case is not a difficult one. it requires no minute sifting of complicated facts, but it does require you to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant. to begin with, this case should never have come to trial. this case is as simple as black and white. the state has produced not one iota of medical evidence to the effect that the crime tom robinson is charged with ever took place. it has relied instead on the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence is not only been called into serious question on
cross-examination but has been flatly contradicted by the defendant. the defendant is not guilty. but somebody in this courtroom is. i have nothing but pity in my heart for the chief witness for the state, but my pity does not extend so far as to her putting a man's life at risk which is what she has done in an effort to get rid of her guilt. i say guilt, gentlemen, because it was guilt that motivated her . she has committed no crime. she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with. she is the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance but i
cannot pity her. she is white. she understood full well the enormity of her offense, but because her desires were stronger than the code she was breaking she persisted in breaking it. she persisted, and her subsequent behavior is something we have all known at one time or another. she tried to put the -- she did something every child has done. she tried to put the evidence of her offense away from her, but in this case she was no child hiding stolen contraband. she struck out as her victim of necessity. she must put him away from her. she must remove him from her presence, from this world. she must destroy the evidence of her offense. what was the evidence of her
offense? tom robinson, a human being. she must put tom robinson away from her. tom robinson was her daily reminder of what she did. what did she do? she tempted a negro. she was white, and she tempted a negro. she did something that in our society is unspeakable. she kissed a black man. not an old uncle but a strong, young, negro man. no code mattered to her before she broke it but it came crashing down on her afterwards. her father saw it and the defendant has testified as to his remarks. what did her father do? we don't know, but there is
circumstantial evidence to indicate that mae ella was beaten savagely by someone who was used almost exclusively to his left. we know in part what mr. yule did. he did what any god-fearing, persevering, respectable white man would do in the circumstances. he swore out a warrant. no doubt signing it with his left hand. and tom robinson now sits before you having taken the oath with the only good hand he possesses. his right hand. so humble, respectable, quiet negro who had the unmitigated at the merit to feel sore -- temerity for a white person.
i need not remind you of their appearance or conduct on the stand. you saw them for yourselves. the witnesses of the state, with the exception of the sheriff of macom county, has presented them to yourselves, you gentlemen, of the court in their confidence that their testimony would not be doubted. believing that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption, the evil assumption that all negros lie, that all negros are basically immoral beings, that all negros are not to be trusted around our women. which, gentlemen, as you know in itself a lie as black as tom robinson's skin. a lie i do not need to explain to you. you know the truth and the truth is this -- that some
negros lie. some negros are immoral. some negros are not to be trusted around women, black or white. but this is a truth that applies to the human race and not to any particular race of man. there is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire. one more thing, gentlemen, before i quit. thomas jefferson once said that all men are created equal, a phrase which the yankees and the side of the executive branch in washington are fond at hurling at us. there is a tendency in this year of grace, 1935, to use
this phrase out of context to satisfy all conditions, the most ridiculous example i can think of is when the people who run our public education promote that stupid and idle along with the industryous. because all men are created equal, educators gravely tell us the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inadequacy. we all know that all men are not created equal. in the sense some people would have us believe. some people are smarter than others. some have more opportunity because they're born with it. some men make more money than others. some ladies bake better cakes than others. some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men. but there is one way in our
society that all men are created equal. there is one human institution that makes the pauper the equal of the rockefeller. the stupid man equal of an einstein. the ignoreant man the equal of any college president. that institution, gentlemen, is a court. our court system has its faults, as do all other human institutions. our courts are the great levelers. and in our courts all men are created equal. i know idealists to believe firmly in the integrity of our court and our jury system. that's a living, working reality. gentlemen, a court is only as
good as every man of you sitting before me on this jury. a court is only as sound as its jury and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up . i'm confident that you will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision and restore this defendant to his family. in the name of god, do your duty. in the name of god, believe him. [applause] >> what you heard was a literal translation of the book word
for word, and we have to remember that this book was written just at the onset of the civil rights movement. so we're going to talk about this book. we're also going to talk about the written word and how powerful it is in terms of our perceptions of the justice system. so i'd like to now ask our first panel to come to the stage. >> how's that? [laughter] >> well -- >> hi, mary. how you doing? >> good. thanks. how are you? >> great. so we have here via skype, she's live from new york city. i always wanted to say that. [laughter] >> and mary is the author of a book about "to kill a mockingbird" that a she wrote last year, "scout, atticus and
boo," and she's directed and produced a film about "to kill a mockingbird." we're going to watch a clip from that in just a moment. next, we have john j. osborn. if you went to law school, the one book you would have read before going to law school was "the paper chase," and this is a book that john j. osborn wrote. has really become a classic. and it, of course, spawned an oscar-award winning film, same name, and also a television series. he's also written an incredible article about "to kill a mockingbird," so we're going to ask him about that. next we have paulette frankl. and paulette is a courtroom sketch artist. now, how cool is that? that's a pretty cool job, and she spends a lot of time in the
courtroom and that's how she came across tony serra. and she spent 17 years, 17 years compiling the incredible book that she's put together that just came out and is called "lush for justice," and it's a book of incredible illustrations, artwork as well as a narrative. and right next to her we have tony serra, and tony serra is the most prolific trial lawyer of our times. he's tried more cases than any other living lawyer. if you ever had a chance to see him in court, it's just a sight to behold. it really is. we're so grateful that he could be here today. he's trying a triple homicide case right now in oakland.
he has a jury out waiting. you may get called away but we're hope you're able to stay for the panel. finally, we have sheldon siegel. and sheldon siegel is a corporate lawyer who has written a series -- i think seven books now, a fictional criminal defense attorney named mike daley who actually lives here in san francisco. and he's written a series of books and these becomes have been shown and transcribed and read throughout the world. so we're going to start now with a clip, a video clip and then we're going to go to the panel.
>> i think it is our national novel. if there was a national novel of week, this would be it for the united states. i think it's the favorite book of almost everybody you meet. >> the first time in my life that the book had sort of captured me. that was exciting. i didn't realize that literature could do that. >> i remember reading a copy of my aunt's in jamaica queens. it was the first book ever written by a white writer that discussed racism in ways that was complicate and sophisticated. -- complicated and sophisticated. >> a touchstone in american literary and social history.
it's a story gently tugged at the issues of racism. >> she was a champion of people who helped us get liberated from racism in this country. >> harper lee's first and only novel. >> a masterpiece is masterpieces not because they're flawless but because they tap into something essential to us, at the heart of who we are and how -- >> a masterpiece and a mystery. >> of course, one kept hoping and waiting for the next novel. sadly, that never came. >> i cannot imagine what drove harper to silence.